Black-clad anarchists swarm anti-hate rally in California

An anti-fascist demonstrator jumps over a barricade during a free speech rally Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Several thousand people converged in Berkeley Sunday for a "Rally Against Hate" in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of violence and triggered a massive police presence. Several people were arrested for violating rules against covering their faces or carrying items banned by authorities. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

BERKELEY, Calif. — An anti-hate rally was disrupted when scores of anarchists wearing black clothing and masks stormed the demonstration in Berkeley and attacked several supporters of President Donald Trump. But police were able to head off any wider violence.

Thousands gathered Sunday in response to a planned anti-Marxism protest that was canceled amid concerns demonstrators might be attacked. The counter-demonstration was largely peaceful for several hours until the antifa, or anti-fascists, overran police barricades around the protest area. The violence was swift but brief, and among those targeted was Joey Gibson, leader of the right-wing organization Patriot Prayer that had called off a demonstration a day earlier in San Francisco.

Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said officers were told not to actively confront the anarchists. He applauded officers’ restraint, saying it forestalled greater violence. Six people suffered injuries, including two who were hospitalized, and one officer was injured while making an arrest and several others were hit with paint.

There were 13 arrests on various charges including, assault with a deadly weapon.

“The potential use of force became very problematic” given the thousands of peaceful protesters in the park, Greenwood said. Once anarchists arrived, it was clear there would not be dueling protests between left and right so he ordered his officers out of the park and allowed the anarchists to march in.

Demonstrators hold shields during a free speech rally Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Berkeley, Calif. Several thousand people converged in Berkeley Sunday for a "Rally Against Hate" in response to a planned right-wing protest that raised concerns of violence and triggered a massive police presence. Several people were arrested for violating rules against covering their faces or carrying items banned by authorities. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

There was “no need for a confrontation over a grass patch,” Greenwood said.

Several hours later, the demonstration broke up without any further incidents.

Officials in Berkeley and San Francisco had been girding for the possibility of violent clashes at right-wing demonstrations. But Saturday’s in San Francisco by Patriot Prayer was called off, and police blocked access to a public square where Gibson had planned to hold a news conference. He instead held it outside the city and criticized police for not doing enough to ensure supporters’ safety at the originally scheduled location of Crissy Field.